Innovation & Design

American Psychological Association Calls for Cutback of Violent Games


The American Psychological Association (APA), the world's largest association of psychologists, today issued a statement announcing that the organization has "adopted a resolution recommending that all violence be reduced in video games and interactive media marketed to children and youth."

Violent games leads to violent behavior?

According to the APA, recent research indicates that "exposure to violence in video games increases aggressive thoughts, aggressive behavior, and angry feelings among youth. In addition, this exposure reduces helpful behavior and increases physiological arousal in children and adolescents."

The APA is also concerned that youth may not learn the consequences of their actions because in most games the player can get away with violence and is sometimes encouraged to commit violent acts. The research on violent media found that 73 percent of the time, perpetrators in violent scenes do not get reprimanded or punished. "Showing violent acts without consequences teach youth that violence is an effective means of resolving conflict. Whereas, seeing pain and suffering as a consequence can inhibit aggressive behavior," commented psychologist Elizabeth Carll, PhD, co-chair of the Committee on Violence in Video Games and Interactive Media.

Furthermore, the APA insists that video games are more influential than movies or television because the player is an active participant in the action rather than a passive observer. "Violence in video games appear to have similar negative effects as viewing violence on TV, but may be more harmful because of the interactive nature of video games," continued Carll. "Playing video games involves practice, repetition, and being rewarded for numerous acts of violence, which may intensify the learning. This may also result in more realistic experiences which may potentially increase aggressive behavior."

APA's recommendation

Consequently, the APA is recommending that a number of steps be taken to lessen the impact of violent games on today's youth. First, they would like media literacy to be taught to children "so they will have the ability to critically evaluate interactive media." Second, they are encouraging the computer and video games industry to "link violent behaviors with negative social consequences."

Third, the APA wants to see the industry "develop and disseminate a content-based rating system that accurately reflects the content of the video games and interactive media" -- apparently the ESRB rating system isn't effective enough for the APA. And lastly, the association is recommending that "developers of violent video games and interactive media address the issues that playing these games may increase aggressive thoughts and behaviors in children and adolescents and that these effects may potentially be greater than the effects of exposure to violent television and movies."

ESA responds

Naturally, the video game industry was none too pleased with the APA's statements. Entertainment Software Association (ESA) president Douglas Lowenstein immediately reacted to the psychological association's statement.

"This resolution is hardly surprising since the APA has made it clear over a long period of time that it believes violent video games are harmful and thus justify enactment of unconstitutional restrictions on First Amendment freedoms," began Lowenstein.

He continued, "The APA continues to disregard a body of other credible research and analysis from such sources as the U.S. Surgeon General, the State of Washington's Department of Health, and from a professor at Harvard Medical School's Center for Mental Health and Media, to name just a few, which challenge claims that video games cause aggression or crime, and highlight the deeply flawed and suspect methodologies that underlie much of the research endorsed by APA. In fact, just this week, a researcher at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign released the first long-term study on the effects of playing violent online video games and found that they do not cause any substantial real-world aggression. Nary a word of it is mentioned by the APA, which is disappointing if it is genuinely interested in an objective look at all the science, including that which does not fit into its world view."

"The resolution also shows that the APA is unaware of, or chooses to ignore, some key facts -- the games on which it is focused are clearly rated M for Mature, make up a small percentage of game sales, and are made for the majority of game players who are adults," concluded Lowenstein.


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